This section may answer some question but will also bring out more, consider it an opportunity to think tank with your team. The S.W.O.T (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) gives a quick reference to things that may or may not be real, but are possibilities. The accumulation of all these steps builds a road map, an understanding, and makes it possible to explain or describe where you are going in a short concise way, and makes it obvious what you are planning to do in the coming month’s and or years.
Keep in mind there is no wrong or right answer here, you are merely compiling and observing your organizations current status. This is just one step on the journey, one step in building a business case, and one more step in assessing what services and changes are needed to support your organizations business requirements. The basics rarely change, only the technology does, and of course there is always a list of nice to haves, documenting everything helps you filter what’s important and what is not.
Again, this list will be different…it should be as technology and business needs change. Here is an example:
1. Minimal Core Infrastructure (name your application here)
2. New, enthusiastic team
1. 85% of staff are new to the organization
2. Unable to meet the expectations (Can’t move fast enough to please everyone)
3. Network instability
4. Lack of integration of core applications
1. Social Media Networks
2. Open Source
1. Inability to compete for qualified skilled people
2. Security – hacking, spam etc.
3. Inadequate budget
4. Little control over vendor products or direction
5. Little control over technologies
This is just an example of what your S.W.O.T. might look like, pull your team together and ask all the tough questions, make an exhaustive list and then pick the top 5 from each of the 4 areas in your SWOT.
This is the prime definition taken from the Wikipedia site on SWOT Analysis:
SWOT Analysis is a strategic planning method used to evaluate the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats involved in a project or in a business venture. It involves specifying the objective of the business venture or project and identifying the internal and external factors that are favorable and unfavorable to achieving that objective. The technique is credited to Albert Humphrey, who led a convention at Stanford University in the 1960s and 1970s using data from Fortune 500 companies.
Until next time
This is the third part of the Analysis section in our mock I.T. Strategic Plan. This section is all about observing and assessing what you have and what assets you may have. You might call it an inventory of which gives you a high-level snapshot of your organization, assets, liabilities and so on. Again, I am not going into great detail in these posts, they are intended to be quick references to give you an idea of what might go into each area and section of your plan.
This part is called Core Competencies, here are a couple of possible entries for your consideration:
1. Good people; qualified, experienced and possibly well trained.
2. Infrastructure; This would be software and hardware that is well integrated.
3. Ability to relate or communicate the services that IT can provide
4. You may have adequate funding available to meet objectives
Again, each of these are just examples of what might be in this part of your plan. The list can be as long as you want it but most likely you will only have a few items to enter here. I.T. Plans take very different shapes depending on the organization and who is building it, it’s a perspective and point of view…or a summary of how you see the needs of the organization and how you view the use of technology.
Next I will go over S.W.O.T. (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats). Another area of observation and reflection, until next time.
We looked at Markets in the 1st part of the Analysis section of our plan, and in this post I want to share with you about Key Success Factors you’ll want to identify for your I.T. Strategic Plan. Every business has them and some even know what they might be but many don’t, these are things that you believe you are delivering or close to delivering at 100% in your organization. These would indicators that allow the organization to have a high level of productivity. You might think hiring smart people would fit in here but they don’t, they actually fall under the next category in our Analysis called Core Competencies.
Think of this area similarly to fixed assets that can be modified or changed, (sounds like an oxymoron but…) here are a few to consider:
1. Application software availability approaching 100%
2. Network availability approaching 100%
3. Provide Infrastructure and tools for appropriate access to data by staff
Those may be reasons why your organization is able to function at a higher level of productivity, resulting in greater results and possibly profitability. Again, only you and your team can decide what these Key Success Factors might be, they are important to making your case when securing your next years budget. The entire I.T. Strategic Plan plays a huge role in your budget and your job security over the next 3 – 5 years.
Even having a rough draft of your I.T. Strategic Plan gives you a solid view of what your organization is doing and or shifting towards, and to meet customer demands. Consider how this allows you to see patterns and an opportunities, giving you ample time to make adjustments before delivering this plan to executives and board of directors. Regardless of who you have to deliver this message to, the exercise helps you and your team more, it’s a guide or a map of where you are going and what you need to do.
Your primary customers that can undo you the fastest are those you work closest with, staff and field staff, word of mouth there needs to be top drawer or you’ll have a short window of opportunity to do what you do best. Customer support on ALL levels has to be the best you can provide to prevent a change you can’t control.
In the next session I’ll touch on Core Competencies.
We are at the observation or Analysis part of our I.T. Strategic Plan, this area can have many or a few sections, I am listing possible categories or subsections for you to review and consider, and then I will look at each one separately. In this section we will look at the following:
2. Key Success Factors
3. Core Competencies
4. S.W.O.T. (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats)
5. Possible Interrelationships
6. Budget Alignments
7. Planning Observations
These may be the same for you or you may have different categories but you get the idea, all of these mini-descriptions I have been laying out for you, are a framework to work from. The first one we’ll look at today is Markets, we need to determine who your supporting and or selling to internally and externally.
Depending on how your organization is structured will determine who is who. For example, if your organization has an HQ (Headquarters), multiple businesses under one umbrella, Field staff and customers, you will need to identify who they are and what they do from an access point of view. Each market will require levels of access and different types of information, it could be sales reports, personal data and or customer’s wish to track & see there purchase history.
One market would be internal HQ staff, another would be field staff, if you have multiple companies or offices with multiple databases you would have to break those independent units down. Documentation becomes critical here because you must know exactly what they need, access points, security, data requirements and so on. As you can see this can be a very laborious pile of work, that’s where your work earlier with department heads and subject matter experts pays off. You would already have a requirements document and a wish list, that would be your starting point to map out the details.
Identifying your markets means you most likely understand all the different complex levels of need. For example, HQ staff will want quick access to the seamless information, e.g. a full 360 degree look at a customer, maybe their personal data or a staff member. Field staff who are stretched for time and resources want strong productivity tools. To be able access financial documents and other required reports. This could also serve as clear evidence that you are indeed providing for and supporting staff in the field. Your I.T. Plan can solve a number of technical challenges but it can also restore or maintain confidence in HQ for those who do not work in the Mother Ship. By providing multiple levels of service and support, is the best PR money can buy, provide the best service and all will speak highly of you and your team.
Next I’ll look at the Key Success Factors section.
We’ve covered Vision & Mission, KRA’s and Objectives so far, today I want to talk to you about Action Plans. As you know nothing happens without action of some sort, even writing this article requires action on my part. This area of your strategic plan does not have to be an exhaustive list but a substantial one, these items should also have dates beside them as targets for delivery or completion.
This list might look like a To Do List in or on any other document but this is your bigger picture stuff that goes into your short & long term plans. I am listing for you a few items that might be on your list but you’ll have to assess your situation and build your list. This action list should be in line with some or all items listed in your objectives, this list will cover a broad scope of projects & items you want to get done over the next 12 to 18 to 24 months. Also keep in mind this list is not written in stone, it is like a budget, it’s a guide to keep you on track with the organizations needs. You may make changes to this plan as circumstances arise and technology advances.
1. Identify the most effective software package for the organization – 2Q – 2010
2. Prepare 5 year budget for core applications – 3Q – 2010
3. To prepare a general implementation plan and schedule for core applications for the next 18 – 24 months – 3Q – 2010
4. Develop strategy to train staff – 3Q – 2010
5. Complete a formal review of Network Infrastructure – 2Q – 2010
This list could have over 20 projects or items on it, it’s like a to do list you want to complete in a timely fashion in the upcoming months. At this point you have been assessing your organizations needs and requirements, then documenting your findings. You should have met with all departments and subject matter experts to learn as much as you can about the current shortcomings of your existing core applications. You also would have collected a wish list from each department to assist in assessing or identifying the appropriate software package that will handle 80 – 90% of the organizations process. Your goal is to make the staff’s job easier and giving customers better support by automating as many processes as possible.
As you can see these plans can take on different shapes and sizes but you as the I.T. Leader must know your organizations needs, if you don’t, that’s your first task before you can build an intelligent I.T. Strategic Plan. In the next part of our mock plan, we will shift gears and move into the Analysis part of our plan.